Wednesday, August 10, 2011

For years I have been wanting to explore printmaking, so I contacted a fine local printmaker, Tammy Ratcliff, who agreed to give me an individual workshop. What an interesting experience! I enjoyed the process of making mono prints, and I want to see if I can describe the steps in a way that makes sense to someone who has not worked in this medium.

Tammy showed me some prints so that I would have an understanding of what would be possible. She explained a few things and then “threw” me into the work. I sat on a stool at a table that was covered with a sheet of glass. Using a tube of ink in a caulking gun, she squeezed ink onto the glass and spread it around a bit with a scraper. To coat the roller, she rolled it through the ink. I learned to roll the roller in the ink until the ink looked velvety, then I was ready to roll ink onto a 6 x 6 inch copper printing plate, back and forth to coat the plate evenly.

The next step was drawing into the ink on the plate. I experimented with different ways of making marks on the plate: pencil, Q-tips, cloth, paper towel stretched over my finger. I had wanted to incorporate words into the image, forgetting that the words would be reversed. So I tried to write backwards, which didn’t work. I wanted to write “The Word” but the “d” turned out to look like a “b” and I decided to forget about putting text into the print and just explore the medium. Then it became fun.

After I made a drawing, and tried to make different textures in the ink, I decided to try printing. The press is like a table with a glass top that has a roller fixed to it, with a big metal wheel that looks like a steering wheel on a boat. We put the copper plate on which I had rolled ink and then made marks in the centre of the glass. The cotton-rag paper that had been soaked in a container of water, went on top of the copper plate. We covered that with several layers of ordinary news print to protect the inch-thick felt pad that covered the surface of the press.

Next, it was time to turn the big metal wheel counter-clockwise to make the roller roll across the inked plate, and then back again the other direction. We lifted off the newsprint, and then lifted the print off the plate. It was time to see how my marks in the ink translated onto the paper. I had my first mono print! But that was not all. We placed a very thin Japanese paper on the plate, and printed another, which is called a ghost print. Here are some samples of my first day of printing.

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